Welcome to Tuesday Tales, where a picture is not just a picture and a word is not just a word.
Four squat black candles burned in the center of the table. Two perfect place settings, not a fork or a spoon askew, fine white china ready for three individual courses, red napkin folded in the center. The wine, deep red and full bodied, had been poured into the stemware to breathe.
Suppressing a sigh, Haley glanced at the diamond watch gracing her wrist. Eight-twenty. Paul was officially an hour and twenty minutes late. And no phone call.
How much longer could she give him before the restaurant kicked her to the curb?
A waiter seemed to materialize at her elbow. “Excuse me. Would you be Ms. Haley Bancroft?”
She lifted her gaze and took in the short black vest and snowy white shirt. “Why, yes, that’s me.”
“I have a message from Mr. Paul Whitfield.” The waiter slid a tray in front of her then discreetly stepped away.
While you were out… floated into focus on the single square of pink note paper.
“I’m not the one who’s out, Paul,” she whispered. Only he’d been there. He had to have been there to leave the note, because it was his precise handwriting that marched across the lined page.
Sorry. I can’t see you again. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love always, Paul.
Blood thundered in Haley’s ears.
Stood up! Not just stood up. Broken up! And on Valentine’s Day!
That lousy son of a bitch. He didn’t have the guts to sit down with her and break up to her face.
“Excuse me,” murmured a deep voice to her right.
Haley turned to face the speaker, followed the exquisite lines of the charcoal Armani suit up, and up, and up, past the powerful chest, to the wide shoulders, then the angular jaw, the high cheekbones, and a pair of deep blue eyes. Walnut hair, cropped close around his ears but left longer on top begged her fingers to roam through it.
“May I help you?” She resisted — barely — the urge to fan herself and swoon at the stranger’s feet.
“I hope so. My name is Malachi Vincent.” He inclined his head. “If that pink note you just got was from your boyfriend and he’s breaking up with you, I think we have something in common.” He held up a square sheet of pink paper, his lips twisted into a wry smile.
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